Dieters need to exercise to retain that weight loss

According to a new national survey in the U.S., despite the widely held belief that most dieters see their weight swing up and down after dieting, many Americans do maintain their weight loss.

The survey conducted by government researchers has found that of 1,310 U.S. adults who'd ever lost a substantial amount of weight, the majority had managed to keep at least some of the weight off.

The researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say of that number, 59 percent were still close to their weight of a year before, which in all cases was at least 10 percent lower than their heaviest all-time weight and another 8 percent weighed less than they did a year earlier.

However, one third of the subjects had regained a significant amount of weight over the year.

Lead study author Dr. Edward Weiss, medical epidemiologist, believes that in a culture that fosters sitting and eating, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge and he finds the study results encouraging.

Many other studies have shown that overweight people in clinical weight-loss programs regain the weight when the program ends and even those enrolled in lifestyle modification programs as a rule regain about one third of their lost weight over the next year; within five years on average many will have regained most of the weight.

But the beauty of this research is that it did not focus on on people in clinical weight-loss programs but used data from a federal health survey that questioned a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.

The researchers believe exercise was a factor in maintaining weight loss and those with a sedentary life increased their chances of weight regain twice as much than those who did moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.

The risk crept up according to the number of hours survey respondents spent in front of the TV or computer each day.

Weiss says exercise has been consistently associated with long-term weight-loss maintenance and staying active after the weight loss may be one way to stay trim.

The researchers advise dieters to not focus too much on the scales but to eat healthily and exercise regularly in order to feel significant health benefits such as a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The research also revealed that Mexican-Americans were more likely than non-Hispanic whites to regain weight, a previously unreported fact which the team says needs to be confirmed by more research.

The study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 2007.

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